Maureen Lipman criticises Helen Mirren’s casting as Jewish politician Golda Meir in new biopic

Mirren will play former Israeli prime minister in Guy Nattiv’s ‘Golda’

Isobel Lewis
Wednesday 05 January 2022 12:50 GMT
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Maureen Lipman has compared the casting of Helen Mirren as former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir to Ben Kingsley playing Nelson Mandela.

Mirren will star as Meir, who was the first female leader of Israel, in Guy Nattiv’s biopic Golda. When the first photos of Mirren as the politician were released in November, viewers said that the 76-year-old actor looked “unrecognisable”.

Speaking to The Jewish Chronicle, actor Lipman said that she was uncomfortable with the idea of Mirren, who is not Jewish, playing Meir.

“With that I disagree, because the Jewishness of the character is so integral,” she said.

“I’m sure she will be marvellous, but it would never be allowed for Ben Kingsley to play Nelson Mandela. You just couldn’t even go there.”

Lipman, 75, added: “Perhaps you need to have some sort of panel of people who say this is not acceptable, this is acceptable.”

The Independent has contacted Mirren’s representatives for comment.

Helen Mirren as Golda Meir in ‘Golda’
Helen Mirren as Golda Meir in ‘Golda’ (Jasper Wolf/Press)

Non-Jewish actors playing Jewish characters (a practice called “Jewface”) is a subject that has divided many Jewish creatives.

Last month, Tamsin Greig, who is a practising Christian with Jewish ancestry, said that she “probably shouldn’t” have played a Jewish character in the Channel 4 sitcom Friday Night Dinner.

However, she later clarified her comments, saying: “What I meant by it was, if we were casting it now, we’d have had very, very different conversations about the necessity of casting me in it and whether the casting should have been wider.”

Lipman, meanwhile, made headlines in December with comments about so-called “cancel culture”, claiming it could “wipe out” comedy.

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